Oral argument is an element of many different types of appeals. I’m criminal appeals lawyer. I’ve done oral arguments many times and I’ll explain to you what they involve. Essentially, an oral argument is the opportunity near the end of an appeal to explain and answer questions that judges might have about the case. Now, to understand more about oral arguments, it is helpful to understand how appeals usually progress.
Appeals are almost all written documents. The defense counsel, the appeals defense lawyer, will argue how a person’s rights have been violated in the criminal case for example. Then the government may respond with their own written document, and often, then the defense has a chance to respond again. So, it’s almost all written but at the very end, here’s an opportunity for this oral argument.
Now, there are a few key points about oral argument. Number one is, you’re not allowed to bring up new arguments that you had not already raised in the written documents. You can’t bring up new arguments. The second thing that’s important to know is that this is often an opportunity for judges to ask questions about the case. Sometimes, judges are on the fence about how they want to rule, and if that’s the case, they will ask hard questions to both sides about hypothetical situations, about other case law to help the judges to make their decision.
But the third piece of information about oral argument is very important, which is that often it is not needed and not particularly helpful. In many cases, all of the arguments are clearly laid out in the written documents. Now sometimes, judges will ask for oral argument because they have particular questions, but oftentimes the written documents themselves, that’s enough. It explains the issue, it explains the arguments, it gives the examples, it cites the law, it cites the facts of the case. So, oral argument doesn’t need to happen in every single case.